The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) expects labor secretary Silvestre Bello III to continue his role as chief government negotiator if ongoing efforts to resume formal talks succeed.
Owing to his “experience” and “competence”, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said they expect Bello to remain as chief negotiator once President Rodrigo Duterte formally reconstitutes the Government of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel.
“I expect Secretary Bello to remain the head of the GRP panel because of his accumulated experience in negotiating with the NDFP and his well-known success in forging the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) with the NDFP,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.
The most veteran of all government negotiators with the NDFP, Bello served in various capacities in six GRP administrations, both in official and during backchannel and “unofficial” meetings.
Bello was the chairperson of the GRP Reciprocal Working Committee on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that crafted with its NDFP counterpart the CARHRIHL. It was signed in March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands.
“He has the legal expertise and high sense of diplomacy. He is competent at standing for the GRP and at the same time knows how to come to terms with the NDFP because he understands the patriotic and progressive viewpoint of the NDFP, unlike the militarists who merely wish to destroy or make the revolutionary movement capitulate,” Sison added.
Most recently, Bello and other government emissaries successfully negotiated a reciprocal unilateral ceasefire with the NDFP that took effect last December 26 as a goodwill measure for the possible resumption of peace talks between the two parties this month.
The last GRP panel, composed of Bello, former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza and lawyers Angela Libraro-Trinidad, Antonio Arellano and Rene Sarmiento, was dissolved last March 18.
Duterte, however, ordered the government panel’s reconstitution and named executive secretary Salvador Medialdea as a new member, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced last December 22.
Bello told reporters in a gathering last December 27 that he expects to continue his role as GRP panel chairperson.
“Siguro naman,” he said. (It is probable.)
Bello revealed that he is scheduled to fly back to The Netherlands next week to meet with NDFP representatives.
“We will meet on January 6 for a possible schedule to agree on an interim peace agreement,” Bello said.
A draft interim peace agreement, initialed by both parties and witnessed by the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator, included agrarian reform and national industrialization components of the prospective social and economic reforms agreement, amnesty proclamation for all NDFP-listed political prisoners, and coordinated unilateral ceasefires.
The next scheduled meeting is an “informal talk” aimed as preparatory to a formal meeting for the resumption of formal peace negotiations based on the draft interim peace agreement, sources to the negotiations said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)